Photographing ballots for personal use is no longer banned according to a rather overlooked modification of the new, controversial amendment proposal to the election law made by Fidesz-KDNP. According to certain opposition politicians, this paves the way for potential election abuses for the governing alliance, while the ruling parties say they only changed due to an ECHR ruling.
The draft’s reasoning points to a recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Strasbourg court ruled in favor of satirical Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) in January in connection with a fine the Hungarian authorities imposed on them after they called on voters to ruin their ballots and share a photo of the ballot paper prior to the controversial referendum held in October 2016 on the question of migrant quotas.
Momentum presidency member György Buzinkay, however, criticized the move.
“It is well known that many people in Hungary are existentially blackmailed that if they do not vote for [governing] Fidesz, the local Fidesz princes will take away their jobs in public administration or public works.
So far, these vulnerable people have been protected to the point that their vote was really secret,” he explained. “This is now over. From now on, it will certainly be made compulsory for them to take photos of their ballots, so the Fidesz princes can have an additional blackmailing opportunity.”
Democratic Coalition MP Gergely Arató also claimed that this feature makes election fraud, such as chain voting, easier.
According to the PMO Chief’s statement, back then he had already held the view that the National Election Commission (NVB) had made the wrong decision. The secrecy of voting is the right of the voter. As a result,
if the voter would want to make his/her choice public, then no one can restrict that right,
Gergely Gulyás argued. In reference to the Strasbourg court’s decision, he explained that this was the way the freedom of expression and the secrecy of voting can be resolved. Hungary has an international obligation to treat the anonymity of voting as something that concerns the voter, he concluded.
Last Tuesday just before midnight, the Justice Minister handed in an amendment proposal to the election law. According to the main feature of the draft, in order to set up a party list, parties must nominate candidates in at least fifty single-member constituencies, almost doubling this minimum number from the original twenty-seven. While Gulyás argued with the fight against fake parties tending to appear around the elections and it has nothing to do with hindering the opposition cooperation, the opposition doubts the honesty behind these arguments. They say the true aim is the government wants to consolidate power and there would be other ways to fight those wanting to abuse public funds. They now want the government to withdraw it, along with the similarly-debated amendments to the Fundamental Law.
Analysts also labeled the move “a power grab” and “a trick engineered to gain power” by the government, something that narrows down and makes the opposition cooperation’s room to maneuver more difficult.
Meanwhile, according to analysts, satirical MKKP, who often makes the news by being hard on anything they smell corruption in and by the small-scale community-projects they run, can be the biggest loser of the changes. The non-parliamentary party had earlier announced to run alone, being a small party only in 27 places (and in order to mess up the opposition cooperation to the least possible extent).
The MKKP president now commented that “if they modify the law because of us, it’s definitely an honor. If that is not the case, and the reason is indeed to stop the virus, then it is an extremely big deal that even the election law will be amended for that reason.” About their plans, Gergely Kovács revealed that
“Perhaps we will run normal candidates in 27 places and very bad ones in the remaining 23.
Those 23 being, for example, the ones who can’t promise anything or had quit KDNP. The point of their campaign would be for people not to vote for them.”
featured image illustration via János Vajda/MTI